The American College of Emergency Physicians recently published a study, which found that each year, 2.3 million ER visits can be attributed to falls among senior adults. According to the study, 20-30% of people who experience falls end up with moderate to severe injuries, that can range from hip fractions to head trauma. These types of falls lead to traumatic brain injuries and 95% of hip fractures in the U.S. The crazy part? Many of these falls probably could have been avoided with the proper safety precautions. We spoke with Brandon Leonard, MA, EMT-CC, an Ambulance Medical Technician with the Nassau County Police Department, in Long Island, New York, to collect expert tips for how to avoid these types of falls in your home. As you become more "seasoned" as an adult, your ability to accommodate for stairs and changing floor levels becomes more difficult. Try to make life easier for yourself and live on a flat floor plan. Not only will it be easier for you to navigate your residence, but it will also eliminate some of the elements that pose a risk of an accident (ie: falling down stairs, falling up stairs, etc.) Many falls in the geriatric population occur in the bathroom. One way to prevent the most common fall, which we call "The Bathtub Fall", is to eliminate bathtubs all together. Invest in a walk-in shower! This will eliminate the need for the elderly to navigate over the wall of a bathtub. When you consider the limited mobility of senior citizens, combined with an individual wrapped in a towel and the environment of a wet bathtub, the potential for an accidental fall is inevitable. As you age, your balance will not be as sharp. The need to wear a rubber soled slipper or sneaker is imperative to reduce the likelihood of a fall. Many of the elderly population like to wear socks because they are not only comfortable, but they help to keep their feet warm. Socks are slippery on many smooth surfaces and will not help balance a person who is unsteady on their feet. Don’t wear pants or sweat pants that are too long! This will increase the probability of tripping and subsequently falling. In addition, if you walk with the assistance of a cane or walker, loose garments may get caught up with the equipment, causing you to lose your balance. Most importantly, respect your limitations. Do not over exert yourself or attempt to take on a challenge in order to reassure yourself of your pride. Getting older is difficult and it is very disheartening to realize that you cannot perform the skills or tasks that you once used to. Many people try to take on these tasks to prove to themselves that they are not the 83 years old that their driver’s license claims they are. Respect your age and body. Maybe bending down to plant flowers is a task better suited for your child or grandchild.
Brandon Leonard, MA, is an Emergency Medical Technician certified in Critical Care. Brandon has helped save many people, including seniors, throughout his career. He works with the Nassau County Police Department in Long Island, New York.